What has the US Department of Energy said about the origins of the Covid outbreak?
According to the Wall Street Journal, an updated and classified 2021 US Department of Energy report has concluded that the coronavirus behind the recent pandemic emerged from a lab leak, but not as part of a weapons program.
Does this report mean that it is more likely that Covid came from the lab?
not necessarily. The report’s conclusion contradicts several scientific studies as well as reports from several other US intelligence agencies. What’s more, experts have been unable to cross-check the evidence based on the US Department of Energy’s report.
Dr Philippa Lentzos, a reader in science and international security at King’s College London, said the original question remained open.
“It may well be the result of a natural spillover, but it could equally be the result of research-related activity, such as a laboratory leak or fieldwork incident. There is no solid evidence either way, just historical precedent and There is circumstantial evidence,” she said.
“While I believe the ‘lab leak’ theory is a real possibility, I should point out that the DOE evaluation has ‘low confidence’ in that assessment and that their assessment has not changed any of the other agencies’ minds. “
Lentzos said that according to guidance from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence: “A low confidence level generally indicates that the information used in the analysis is scarce, ambiguous, fragmentary, or that solid analytical conclusions cannot be inferred from the information.” or IC has significant concerns or problems with information sources.”
What do scientists understand by this?
Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said the agency had not received any information on this particular assessment.
“WHO and Sago [the Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens] will continue to examine all available scientific evidence that will help us advance knowledge on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, and we call on China and the scientific community to conduct the necessary studies in that direction. Until we have more evidence, all hypotheses are still on the table,” Jasarevic said.
However, others have thrown cold water on the report.
“It is wrong to present this issue as scientifically inconclusive,” said Angie Rasmussen, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. “Two prior studies – one of which I co-authored – used multiple lines of evidence to clearly demonstrate that epidemics occur in human populations at least twice over a period of approximately two weeks or in association with live Hunan emerged immediately above the market. Animal trade,” she said.
“Any data suggesting laboratory leakage would have to be consistent with this evidence. So far, all competing hypotheses challenging our findings have failed to pass peer review. Described as ‘confident’, I would be surprised if this new intelligence dates back to that time.
Professor David Robertson, who studies viral evolution at the University of Glasgow, raised concerns that “vague rumors of new information” are contributing to misinformation on the issue, including how much is known about the origins of the virus. “It is important to appreciate that we have a lot of evidence for the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, that is, not just one report but several lines of evidence that have accumulated steadily since 2020,” he said.
Dong-Yan Jin, professor of virology at the University of Hong Kong, agreed. “For me and other scientists who have common sense and are well aware of the facts, the possibility of a lab leak is extremely unlikely. The story of the lab leak in Wuhan is a fiction and is as ridiculous as the counterclaim that Sars-CoV-2 comes from lab leaks in the US,” he said.
But Lentzos said more work is needed. “I do not take the DOE’s new position as an emphatic endorsement of the lab leak theory, but I do think we need to keep an open mind on this issue and continue to push for an international forensic investigation — although I appreciate the possibility.” This is happening, and the investigation that reaches a firm conclusion is extremely thin,” she said.
Why is it so hard to say with certainty how the outbreak started?
One problem is that it is almost always challenging to pinpoint the origin of a virus. For starters, finding the site of “spillover” – where a virus jumps from one species to another – is difficult and gets harder over time, while the genetics of viruses in the first people infected from virus sequences obtained from animals Comparing a host is no easy task. At present, the identity of which type of animal this virus came to humans is not clear.
There has been a precedent for both laboratory accidents involving biohazardous organisms, and the coronavirus pandemic – and other diseases – being aware of animal origins, while the Wuhan Institute of Virology is located in the same city as the wet market. To some, the focus of the investigation has appeared to be too coincidental.
The situation has not been helped by the heavy politicization of the debate. However, one major issue has been transparency. “The ‘investigation’, or more precisely the ‘WHO-China joint mission’, agreed between WHO and China, was not a forensic investigation with expertise to investigate both natural and research-related origins. It was not a natural was set up to investigate spillovers,” Lentzos said, adding that Beijing heavily influenced what the mission saw, what data it had access to, who it could talk to and other factors.
“There was and still is a lack of cooperation from Beijing,” he said.